UK cargo airline Air Foyle and Antonov are proposing a Rolls-Royce powered variant of the An-124 heavy transport aircraft, designated An-124-210, to meet a UK Royal Air Force requirement for a short-term strategic transport aircraft (STSA).

The proposal involves an upgraded aircraft, with Rolls-Royce RB211-524HT turbofans rated at 258 kN (58,000lbs), offering increased performance, reliability and fuel economy over the present 229 kN Progress D-18.

"The RB211 will substantially improve the An-124's short-field performance, reducing the rival Boeing C-17's short-field length advantage to less than half of what it is currently," Air Foyle claims.

The airline says that the new aircraft would still cost "substantially less" than the C-17 - the RAF's favoured option.

The An-124-210 will also be fitted with new Honeywell avionics, allowing the aircraft to be flown with only a three-man flight crew, instead of the six required in the standard An-124. The original MoD requirement called for a two-man cockpit, but this was relaxed as part of a reassessment of requirements for the aircraft.

Development of the An-124-210 began prior to the STSA programme, but has remained a paper project to date. "The-210 is a two year programme, which can be completed in time to meet the RAF's in service date," Air Foyle says.

The RAF requires four aircraft by mid-2001. Antonov has one complete An-124 at its Ulyanovsk plant, and three others in production that could be produced to the new standard. The An-124 is already widely used by Air Foyle for outsize cargo contracts around the world.

Competitors are Boeing with the C-17, Airbus Transport International with the A300 and Beluga A300, and a standard An-124 offered by IBP. The competition is for a lease of four aircraft, for between five and nine years.

Source: Flight International